CIVIL society organisations from 30 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America have condemned government’s attempts to close down human rights NGOs through its draconian proposed
The groups issued a statement during a meeting held in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the Fourth International Colloquium on Human Rights from October 10 to 16. The meeting was held under the Millennium Declaration and Development Goals with the theme “Challenges for Human Rights”.
“We note and salute the role played by civil society in Zimbabwe in the fight for independence and the post-independence national reconstruction process and peace building,” the statement said.
“We however note with great concern the imminent threat inherent in the intended piece of legislation, ie the Non-Governmental Organisations Bill 2004, which endangers the existence of civil society in Zimbabwe and its ability to contribute towards the attainment of the Millennium Goals.”
The statement said the NGO Bill currently before parliament, which seeks to restrict the work of civil society members, was in violation of international conventions on human rights.
“The current form and content of the Bill criminalise the work of Zimbabwean citizens who advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights and democratic governance. Moreover, the Bill states under Section 17 that ‘no local non-governmental organisation shall receive any foreign funding or donation to carry out activities involving or including issues of governance’. The Bill defines ‘issues of governance’ as the promotion and protection of human rights and political governance issues.”
The statement concluded by urging government to amend some sections of the Bill.
“We hereby draw the attention of the Zimbabwean government to all the international conventions on human rights and good governance that it has ratified. We call upon the Zimbabwean government to amend the provisions of the Bill that make it a criminal offence for Zimbabwean citizens to promote and advocate for human rights and good governance, amend the provisions that make it a criminal offence for Zimbabwean organisations working on promoting human rights and good governance to receive financial contributions from non-Zimbabwean sources.”
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa brought the NGO Bill to parliament at the beginning of the month.
Government says the Bill is meant to regulate the activities of NGOs whom it accuses of straying from their core humanitarian commitments into politics.